Author's Note: Thanks to On-A-Dare for the beta.
When he was nearly sixteen, Dean's brother Sam got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
That wasn't the problem. Sure, it hurt like hell and sucked for Sammy, but it wasn't even like it was his dominant hand.
No, the problem was that three days after Sam got his arm broken by a really angry ghost, Sam also got himself clawed halfway to death's door by a different evil son of a bitch. (Dean would have called it a Jersey Devil, except they were in freakin' Nebraska, and he refused to call it a Nebraska Devil because that was just lame).
Sam missed three days of school, recovering, and he went back without a doctor's note, because what the hell would they have told a doctor? My brother got attacked by a bear? Right, because that happened all the time in Eastern Nebraska. Besides, it wasn't like he needed a doctor; they knew how to patch themselves and each other up. And forging a note, in a town this size was tricky.
Sammy was usually good at smoothing things over at school when shit like this went down. He'd go back, apologize a lot, hand in a stack of perfect assignments, and flash those puppy dog eyes of his at people till they told him not to worry about it and they were just glad he was feeling better.
And there was absolutely no reason for Dean to think this time would be any different. Dean didn't even worry about it when John got a call from Pastor Jim on Sunday night and left inside of twenty minutes, promising he'd be back in a week, two at the outside.
Sam came home from school Monday afternoon with a note.
"What the hell's this?" Dean asked, when Sam handed it to him.
"It's from Ms. Hardis, my algebra teacher," Sam said. "She wants to see Dad."
"Did you tell her everything was okay?"
Sam gave Dean the kind of look he usually reserved for their father. "Of course. I know the damn drill. She didn't believe me."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because she's not an idiot, Dean. Just read the note."
The alternative was probably the latest bitch and moan on why Sam hated his life, hunting, moving all the time, lying to everyone, hunting, broken arms, missing school, hunting, whatever else he took it into his fifteen year-old head to hate this week, and hunting. So Dean opened the note.
It was short, and the handwriting was computer font levels of precise.
Dear Mr. Winchester,
I am your son Sam's Algebra II teacher, and I have concerns about his recent unexplained and therefore unexcused absence. I would appreciate your making an appointment with me to discuss this situation at your earliest convenience.
Sincerely, Cora Hardis
Apparently, the prairie schoolmarm was alive and well in Nebraska.
"You read this?" Dean asked Sam.
"Wasn't sealed," he said, with a shrug. "She's not letting me take the test I missed."
"She worried about more than your grades?"
"Dunno. Not like you can afford to assume she's not, right?"
"Yeah." Dean read the note again. "All right, I'll take care of it."
Sam was wearing the best of his skeptical looks. "You'll take care of it? I don't think that's a good idea."
"Dude, I can handle Ms. Hardass here."
"Sammy, I have dealt with my share of battleaxe school teachers. I'll take care of it."
"But, look, she's—"
"I said I got it," Dean said.
"Okay," said Sam, holding his good hand up in defeat. "Just don't say I didn't try to warn you." He turned and started down the hall to the bedroom they shared. "If you decide you actually want to listen to me for a change, I'll be packing," he called over his shoulder.
"Packing for what?"
"Whatever hellhole Dad's gonna make us move to after you fuck this up."
The way Dean saw it, there were two ways to play Ms. Hardass. If she was under, say, thirty-five, he would play the guy she never quite had the guts to flirt when she was his age – the bad boy with the secret sensitive streak or whatever. And if she was over thirty-five, then it was the slightly wayward but still loyal and loveable son she wished she had.
Either way, it was all about being a little sheepish, slightly apologetic, completely charming, and utterly adorable.
And if there were two things Dean was, if he did say so himself, they were charming and adorable.
And damn good with his hands.
And . . . well, you get the idea.
He got in a quick round of practice on the secretary, when he arrived as school let out the next afternoon. No, he didn't have an appointment, but Ms. Hardis had asked to see him, and he gathered it was important, and he would sure hate to keep her waiting. Room 204? And if Mrs. Lewis – Debbie, of course – if Debbie could just point him in the right direction . . . ? Thanks and take care.
Room 204 was empty, though the door was open and the lights were on. Dean took the opportunity to do a little reconnaissance.
There was not a lot to go on. Two posters at the front of the room – the usual inspirational crap, Great work is done by people who are not afraid to be great and It is hard to fail, but it is worse to never have tried to succeed. Nothing written on the blackboard, announcements about school events on the bulletin board beside it.
There wasn't much on Ms. Hardass's desk, either. Some kind of plant, neat stack of papers, note pad, stapler, some post-its, a University of Nebraska mug full of pens and pencils, brass paperweight shaped like a cat. (It was always a cat.)
And one framed photograph, facing away from the rows of student desks. It showed a hot brunette and a hotter blonde, both in University of Nebraska cheerleader uniforms, posing with a sign that said "Homecoming 1997." One of them must be Ms. Hardass's daughter, Dean decided, and wondered if he should switch tactics to the "guy you want your daughter to bring home" variant of the "son you wish you had" ploy.
Dean was rummaging through the center drawer in the desk – bottle of aspirin, $1.65 cents in change, paperclips, more pens – when a voice from the doorway said, "Can I help you with something?"
Dean looked up to see the blonde from the picture, looking even hotter in person, despite being in khakis and pink blouse rather than cheerleader uniform. The grin Dean gave her was less sheepish and apologetic than it was what-are-you-doing-after-your-shift? "I can think of any number of things you could help me with, sweetheart," Dean said.
"Sorry," Dean said, stepping away from the desk. "Just need to have a few words with your mother."
"With my mother?"
"Well, let's see," she said, coming into the classroom. "If you leave now, and traffic isn't too bad, I bet you could be in Omaha by six."
"That's where my mother lives. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have papers to grade."
Dean was going to kill Sammy. How the hell hard was it to blurt out, "My teacher is hot"?
(And how the hell did Sammy – or any of his male classmates – focus on the subject matter this woman taught long enough to figure out it was math, let alone actually learn anything?)
"Sorry," Dean said, and this grin is sheepish. "I was expecting Sam's teacher to be, you know, older."
"Sam? You'd be Mr. Winchester, then?"
"Sorry, Mr. Winchester," Ms. Hardis said, "but I was expecting Sam's father to be, you know, older, too."
"Yeah, well, our dad is. I'm Sam's older brother. Dad's out of town this week on business. But Sammy gave me your note, and I wanted to address any concerns you had, or answer any questions, right away."
Ms. Hardis sat down at her desk. "Well, that's very conscientious of you, but I think I need to talk to Sam's father. He's missed several days of school and a test which, without a doctor's note, I'm not supposed to let him retake. Please ask your father to come see me when he gets back."
Dean did some rapid reassessing in his brain, and decided on the concerned and involved older brother approach. Because he suspected Ms. Hardis had never had any trouble flirting with anyone she wanted to flirt with. And she was way too young for any variation on the son-you-always-wanted theme.
"I'm really sorry about that," Dean said, ignoring her semi-tacit dismissal, and sitting down on top of the nearest desk. She looked up, a little surprised, but she didn't tell him to leave.
"His arm was really bothering him, and once he was off the heavy duty pain-killers, we all realized how much the rest of him was banged up. Dad didn't want him to push himself too hard."
Dean tried not to think about what Sam's reaction to that statement would be. He had a game face to keep on, here.
"And how did your brother break his arm, Mr. Winchester?"
"Fell off his skateboard," Dean said easily.
"Must have been quite a fall," Ms. Hardis said, when Dean didn't elaborate. (Elaborating without being asked pretty much always looked suspicious.)
Dean shrugged. "Between you and me, I'm pretty sure the skateboard was falling off of something while Sammy was falling off of it."
This was why fell off his skateboard had been offered as an excuse for any number of Sam and Dean's injuries over the years. Most people who had spent any time at all around teenaged boys knew that somebody somewhere had tried to ride a board down or off of every surface out there.
"Anyway, I think he's kind of embarrassed about the whole thing, so I haven't been asking for too many details."
Ms. Hardis smiled. "My younger brother tried to skateboard down the top of a bike rack when he was about Sam's age."
"Yeah? What happened to him?"
"He broke his leg. He didn't want to talk about it much, either."
See? People totally bought this excuse.
"So you know how it is," Dean said.
"Yes, but Hal saw a doctor," she said, and it sounded like the token objection Dean hoped it was. She probably didn't want to fail Sam or believe there was anything weird going on in his house, after all. Dean just had to give her a reason to let the whole matter drop.
"So did Sam. And we should have taken him back, I get that, but it was mainly just bruising, and there's nothing much a doctor can do for that. Dad really thought Sam just needed take it easy for a couple of days and give himself time to heal up. If, God forbid, Sam needs to miss any more school, we will make sure we have our i's dotted and stuff. But Dad and I are the ones who screwed up, here. Not Sam. Please don't punish him. The kid cares about his grades."
"Well," said Ms. Hardis, "I'm really not supposed to make exceptions . . . but I guess just this once, so long as it doesn't happen again . . . I can overlook it."
"Thank you," Dean said.
"You're welcome, Mr. Winchester."
"Cora," Dean repeated, and this grin was the one the cheerleader would get. "So, you still want to see my dad when he gets back?"
"No, I don't think that will be necessary," she said. "Just tell Sam he needs to be ready to make up that test tomorrow."
"You know, your brother is probably the smartest kid I teach here. He's got a bright future."
"Yeah, Sammy's the one who got the brains in the family."
"So, what?" she asked, smiling, and damn but was she hot when she smiled. "He got the brains, you got the looks?"
"Something like that," Dean said.
"You don't exactly come across as just a pretty face, Dean."
Dean shrugged. "Well, I never had his grades."
"There's more to intelligence than grades," she said. "Besides, maybe you just never had the right instruction," she added.
"It's possible," she said. "There are one or two things I'd be happy to help you brush up on, if you're not in a rush."
Dean suddenly suspected they were no longer talking about algebra.
He wasn't wrong.
"Wait, you had sex with my algebra teacher?" Sam demanded.
They were five hours into an eight-hour drive, passing the exit for a town in Eastern Nebraska they both only half-remembered living in.
They both remembered Ms. Hardis, though.
"Well, yeah. She was hot."
"What? It was, like, seven years ago, and she was your teacher, not your girlfriend. Chill."
"I never had sex with your algebra teacher," Sam said.
"Well, no. Because when I had algebra, you were twelve, dude. And my teacher was a sixty-something year old woman with a moustache."
"You went to a parent-teacher conference, and had sex with my algebra teacher."
"On her desk."
"I can't believe I'm related to you," Sam muttered.
"Yeah, me, neither," Dean said, and shoved another cassette into the tape deck.
Any further comment from Sam was drowned out by a Van Halen drum solo.
Dean always had liked this song.